Bigoli pasta with farmyard ragu (di corte) from Padova.
Bring a taste of Northern Italy to your table with this traditional bigoli pasta with farmyard ragu made with slow cooked duck, guinea fowl and stewing hen.
Bigoli con ragu di corte.
One of the most interesting things about Italian cuisine is not only the fact that recipes and traditional dishes vary from region to region, but even from province to province or town to town! Here in Veneto, one of the most well-known pasta dishes is bigoli pasta with duck, especially in Verona. However, I recently discovered another version of this dish from Padova. This is called bigoli pasta with farmyard ragu (di corte, meaning farmyard). This recipe also includes duck but with another two typical farmyard birds; guinea fowl and stewing hen.
(This post was first published in 2017 but has been updated)
The hen most traditionally used in this pasta with farmyard ragu recipe is a crested hen known as the Padovana. Needless to say, it’s not that easy to find this type of hen outside of Padova. I used a normal stewing hen. Stewing hens are retired egg layers. The meat of stewing hens is tougher than the normal chickens we eat. However, it is actually healthier because these hens have been reared to produce eggs, not meat, and are often fed more nutritiously. You can’t roast a stewing hen (it’s too tough) but they make excellent broth or stock and their meat is very tasty when stewed or slow cooked.
Guinea fowl is another poultry that is excellent in slow cooked recipes. Originally a game bird, but now domesticated and available all year round, guinea fowl has a flavour somewhere between chicken and pheasant or partridge, although it doesn’t have an excessive gamey taste.
Duck, of course, is a bird that many people enjoy eating and duck pasta is delicious. As I mentioned before, duck ragu is a traditional pasta sauce in the part of Northern Italy where I live. Although duck can be a bit fatty, for this recipe the duck pieces are deboned and the skin removed, so there’s very little fat in the sauce.
The combination of these three poultry meats makes for a delicious sauce. This recipe calls for about 100g (3.5oz) of each bird. Here in Italy, it’s possible to buy pieces even in the supermarket, ie thighs, breasts etc. I recommend using thighs as breast meat tends to dry out quicker. The meat has to be removed from the bones and minced or cut into small pieces. I had my butcher de-bone the pieces, but I decided to cut it into very small pieces rather than mince it.
Apart from the duck, guinea fowl and stewing hen meat, this bigoli pasta with farmyard ragu includes just some onion, carrot and celery, white wine, chicken or vegetable stock and a few herbs and seasoning. I made the stock myself from the duck, guinea fowl and hen bones and carrots, celery, an onion and salt. Of course you can also use a stock cube! The sauce needs about an hour to cook but is wonderfully tasty and well worth the effort.
Traditionally this pasta with farmyard ragu dish is served with bigoli, a pasta typical of Veneto. But, you can also use spaghetti, tagliolini or tagliatelle. As is often the case, I made extra ragu and froze the leftovers. That way I have another delicious pasta meal ready when I don’t feel like cooking or just don’t have the time!
I am sure you will love this recipe if you try it. We did! If you do make it, please let me know how it turns out. You can comment here on the blog or on the Pasta Project Facebook page. Your feedback is so appreciated!
Other Bigoli recipes from Northern Italy
Read about the history and origins of bigoli pasta
Other traditional pasta recipes from Veneto
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Bigoli pasta with farmhouse ragu
- 400 g Bigoli pasta (14oz) or spaghetti, tagliolini, tagliatelle etc
- 100 g duck (3.5oz) de-boned and skinned
- 100 g guinea fowl (3.5oz) de-boned and skinned
- 100 g stewing hen (3.5oz) de-boned and skinned (you can also use chicken)
- 2-4 celery stalks
- 2-4 carrots
- 1-2 onions peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary remove leaves from sprig
- 4-5 sage leaves chopped
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 glass white wine
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- salt for cooking pasta and to taste
- black pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 45 g Parmesan or grana cheese (1.5) optional
- fresh parsley for garnish
- If you are going to make your own stock, start to prepare it by washing and cutting 2 celery stalks and 2 carrots into large pieces and peeling one onion and cutting it in half. Put the vegetables on to boil covered in water with a tsp of salt. You can also include the poultry bones. This needs to be started at least an hour before you make the ragu.
For the Ragu
- Mince or cut the poultry meat, minus bones and skin, and put it into a bowl.
- Add half the white wine to the chopped or minced meat and leave to rest for 15 minutes, so that the meat softens.
- Cut the peeled onion and the celery and carrots finely.
- In a non-stick frying pan or iron skillet fry the onion, celery and carrot in heated extra-virgin olive oil for a few minutes over a medium heat.
- When the vegetables start to soften, add the meat and brown slightly.
- Add the remaining wine, turn up the heat and allow the alcohol to evaporate a little.
- Add the rosemary, sage and bay leaves. Mix and add a little broth, salt and pepper.
- Cook for about an hour on a low heat, adding broth whenever the sauce seems to be drying out.
- Put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta. When it starts to boil add salt and bring to the boil again.
- Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet.
- When the pasta is ready, save a cup of the cooking water and drain.
- Reheat the sauce if you prepared it earlier. Remove the bay leaves. Add some pasta cooking water if it seems dry.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce. Mix everything together well.
- Serve immediately with some ground pepper and a little parsley as garnish.
- This dish can also be eaten with grated Parmesan or grana cheese.
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